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Why Digital Advertising Should Be Part of Your Marketing Plan

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Use digital advertising to go where the attention is. Americans spend an average of 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day.

What is traditional advertising?

Traditional advertising covers offline tactics for promoting your business. Common traditional advertising methods include:

  • Printed advertisements and advertorials in newspapers and magazines.
  • Broadcast commercials on television and radio, and in cinemas.
  • Direct mail brochures and flyers.
  • Point of sale displays.
  • Outdoor advertisements, such as billboards.

What is digital advertising?

In contrast to traditional advertising, digital advertising happens online on websites, social media networks, and in mobile apps. Digital advertising complements organic digital marketing methods such as content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and organic social media marketing.

Common forms of digital advertising

There are several forms of digital advertising you can use to promote your business. These include paid social media marketing, pay-per-click advertising (including search engine, display, and video advertising), and native advertising.

Paid social media marketing

Paid social media marketing means paying to promote content and run ads and ad campaigns on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and others. With 230 million social media users in the U.S.,1 no small business can afford to ignore paid social media.

Each social media platform has several options for paid advertising. You can create an original ad, or you can put some funds behind an existing post to get even more eyes on it.

Pay-per-click advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an umbrella term for ads where you pay a fee every time a web user clicks on your ad. Types of PPC ads include:

  • Search ads. These are promoted search results, usually identified by a small banner. Otherwise, they look virtually identical to non-promoted results. Paid search ads are based on keywords and keyword phrases. You choose the keywords you're interested in, and your ads show up when people search for those terms.
  • Display ads. These are ads that appear on the web and within mobile apps. They can include text, images, or video, and can be static, dynamic, or interactive. You can also use display ads on many social media sites.
  • Video ads. Pre-roll video ads (meaning they appear before the main content) often appear on YouTube and often last up to 30 seconds. For long videos, advertisers can also place ads mid-roll (halfway through) or even at or near the end of a video.

Native advertising

Native advertising is advertising that blends in with the surrounding content. Types of native advertising include:

  • Promoted search results. Search results that appear at the top of the search results page and look identical to other results, apart from a small banner identifying them as ads.
  • Promoted social media posts that appear within users' newsfeeds. Again, these are identical to other social media posts, but will be flagged as promotional or sponsored.
  • Recommended content widgets. These are boxes that appears after content, like at the end of a blog post, guiding the reader to what to do next.
  • Branded sponsored content. This is branded content produced in partnership with a media outlet.

On mobile devices, native ads can also include apps, and in-game promotions like playable ads.

Why should you use digital advertising?

There are several reasons why it makes sense to use digital advertising to promote your small business.

Reach the right audience

To start with, you'll be going where the attention is. The We are Social Digital 2020 US report2 shows that Americans spend an average of six hours and 42 minutes online each day.

Second, you'll avoid being left behind. As attention shifts online, digital advertising has become more important to make sure you reach the right people. Traditional advertising might work if you're trying to reach an older customer base, but if you want to reach millennials or digital natives, you could be wasting your time with direct mail.

Get more bang for your buck

Digital advertising has a couple of other benefits, too. For starters, it's far cheaper than traditional advertising. An article in Forbes3 found that prime TV ad slots for the 2018- 2019 season ran between $17 to $32 per thousand people reached. By contrast, ads on Google for the first quarter of 2018 only cost $2.80 per thousand people reached.

But that's not all. The people you reach with TV ads or print ads aren't nearly as targeted as digital ads. With digital campaigns, you can easily fine-tune according to audience demographics, interests, location, keyword searched for, and previous behavior. This means you use your marketing budget more wisely, and avoid spending on people who aren't interested in your products and services.

Change strategy fast if necessary

Digital campaigns are more flexible. If something appears in printed form, you can't easily correct it or change direction. In contrast, the almost instant feedback you get with digital campaign analytics makes it easy to change strategy quickly if you need to.

Get more reliable data from campaigns

Traditional advertising lasts longer, but campaigns can be more expensive and harder to measure accurately than digital campaigns. When you run a TV ad, you know how many people are supposed to be watching. When you run a digital video ad, you know how many people actually watched and how much of the video they saw.

The bottom line is that when deciding between traditional and digital advertising, you'll have to pick the right method for your audience and budget. While large companies often use both methods and advertise on all platforms, as a small business owner you'll want to be more discerning. Because of the targeting and the ability to cap your spending, digital advertising is likely to provide better return on investment (ROI) in the short term.

Important disclosure information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. Simon Kemp, "Digital 2020: The United States of America," DataReportal, published February 11, 2020, accessed August 15, 2020. Back
  2. We are Social, "Digital 2020 US", accessed August 25, 2020. Back
  3. David Doty, "It's All About Pricing: Digital Is Winning Simply Because It's A Cheaper Way For Advertisers To Reach Consumers: A 101 Course," Forbes, published October 29, 2019, accessed August 27, 2020. Back